The Munchkin is one of the most controversial breeds, thanks to its short legs, but since its emergence on to the feline scene in 1991, criticism has lessened as more has become known about the effects of this mutation. It was feared that such cats, in view of their short legs, could be prone to the back problems that plague Dachshunds. This has not happened however; instead, their quality of life is essentially unimpaired, and they can climb and run very fast.
This breed is named after the little people in The Wizard of Oz.
- BREED DEVELOPED: 1980s
- COUNTRY: USA
- TYPE: Shorthair
- BODY SHAPE: Long relative to the length of the legs
- WEIGHS UP TO: 5kg/ 11 lb
- PLUS POINTS: Playful, friendly and sociable by nature
- WATCH POINTS: Restricted jumping ability may spell danger outside, if pursued by dogs or foxes
All Munchkins are descended from a stray that was found under a truck by an American woman, Sandra Hochenedel, in 1983. She christened this unusual short-legged pregnant female Blackberry. One of Blackberry’s sons, called Toulouse then founded a breeding group of these cats on a plantation in Louisiana. Since the short-legged characteristic of the
Munchkin is dominant in its mode of inheritance, this means that it has proved easy to rapidly increase not just the numbers, but also the colour forms of the breed. Their distinctive body shape and movement has been likened to that of ferrets rather than cats.
The pointed varieties show the typical patterning most commonly associated with Siamese cats. Darker fur on the legs, paws and tail as well as the face and ears, contrasts with the pale body coloration, with the eyes being blue in colour. Kittens are whitish in colour, developing their characteristic pointed coloration as they grow older.
The breed was first exhibited publicly at a show in New York during 1991, and was then controversially recognised as a breed in its own right in 1995. Today, the Munchkin is more popular in the USA and stock is also available overseas, notably in the Netherlands and France.
Although all of today’s Munchkins trace their origins back to Blackberry, other short-legged cats have been documented. Four generations of such cats were bred in the UK, but the bloodline was lost during World War II.
Another cat of similar appearance was found in Stalingrad in 1956, often sitting upright, with its front legs off the ground. This led to it being called the Kangaroo Cat.
On-going veterinary studies have shown that although the Munchkin’s leg bones are similar in shape to those of short-legged dogs such as Dachshunds, there is no change in the structure of its vertebral column. Spinal disorders are rare in cats because their backbone is naturally more flexible than that of dogs.